I sit here and write to you from Rio De Janeiro in an internet cafe which really is a gaming zone. I climbed up a winding flight of stairs to computers lined up, neon blue and green lights flashing and techno in the background as 12 year olds surround me intensely playing Counterstrike, Doom, name a computer game they are here playing it. It´s not a bad idea for the states to do this too, get kids who love to game out of the house and socialize and compete with one another.
How to describe Rio De Janeiro. Should I begin with its sandy white beaches and the clear blue ocean as it crashes against the shores? Should I begin with my room which is located in the richest neighborhood in all of South America? Should I begin with the racial and class tension that undercuts the atmosphere of the entire city? Or the favelas that one must see with ones eyes to fully appreciate the magnitude of? ´
Impanema beach is one block from the apartment and today was the first day that I walked past the boardwalk and down to the actual sandy beach of Impanema. I thought hard on how to describe what it feels like to walk through the fine grainy sand up to the edge of the ocean as Sugarloaf Mountain watches. I doubt I can do it justice. I saw the ocean from the boardwalk yesterday as well but it did not move me. However today when I walked up to the water and felt the breeze and saw the waves as they crashed upon the shore I cannot even begin to describe the feeling that came over me. The water is so beautiful and peaceful and relaxing yet I couldnt help think that this very ocean can turn around create Tsunamis destroying everyone including me as I stood inches from it upon the beach. It´s an awe inspiring experience to be before such a gentle quiet yet fiercly powerful force.
Brazil is the first country I have visited where no one in Rio De Janeiro, the most popular tourist destination in Brazil, heart of the economy, where NO ONE really speaks English. Since I am not a tourist really, I go to school here now, I buy groceries and cook dinner, I send out for laundry, I feel as though I slightly understand what it must be like to be an immigrant like my students who arrived with absolutely no language skills. Walking down a street and a lady walking her dog smiling at me and trying to chat and I have no idea what she is saying. At the vendors to buy a calling card I slowly find myself playing a game of charades to be understood. Americans are probably the only ones who assume those in other countries will know their language. What foreigner immigrates here speaking to others in their native tongue and upset that they don´t know it. And what makes this all the more bewildering is that they presume I am Brazilian. I walk down the streets and not a vendor approaches me, not a hat or eyeglass seller looks my way. I am one of them, and its presumed that these trinkets hold no interest.
I feel that this time is an eye opening experience for me. I am on my own in a foreign country. I live by myself with no roomate, I have no television, no radio. It´s me myself and I when I am in the room which admittedly I am not in very much because there is so much to do and see and study and I~ve met wonderful people on the program to have lunch dinner and see the sights. (Even found a running partner. Can you imagine waking up at sunrise to run by Impanema beach??? Me neither, hvent done it yet 🙂 but I´m starting tomorrow.) Most people here are much more into the night life experience and it is an overwhelmingly huge atmosphere of partying and drinking and dancing. Naturally a lot of people probably came just for that. Ofcourse I dont do that but I´m grateful to have found people like myself here because it would be a very isolating experience if it was only me whod rather sit at a cafe and people watch while reading my assignments for class. But still…when I come back at night there are no distractions. No television to drown out thoughts, no other person to distract, you face you. In some ways I feel I´ve found a new friend, its hard to explain.
I have so much more to say, like about the mangoes I discovered today that are truly splendid down to the last bite. But I will write more later and hopefully not as scattered as these thoughts are. Forgive the disorganization.